While Britain shivered waiting for Spring to arrive, I was away for Easter, in Istanbul, Turkey’s capital in all but name.
I stayed in the Beyoglu neighbourhood, which was lively and easy’ish to get to from the airport (1 metro ride, followed by a busy tram, followed by a funicular up the hill) – just over an hour, and about £3.70 all in all. Unfortunately, it’s more difficult to recommend the hotel I chose (Ansen Suites) who claimed not to have my reservation, despite the fact it had been made directly through their website. Luckily I had the print out. It also faced the charming “Good Mood” bar and club directly opposite, which pumped out Donna Summer till at least 2am on Fridays and Saturdays. Ho hum. Ear plugs are a traveller’s best friend.
Istanbul is a great destination for a long weekend. About 3.5 hours from London, and heaps to see and do. Easy to get around. Great food and very friendly people. (I know the “friendly locals” is a terrible cliche, but I have always found the Turks to be fantastic, ever since I first went there as a student in 1989).
Looking out from the balcony of the 360 bar and restaurant in Beyoglu, towards Ortakoy and Yildiz
The tram in Beyoglu runs up to Taksim square along busy Istiklal Avenue – a bargain at £1.15
Mean-looking graffiti panda in Beyoglu
Looking towards the Blue Mosque
Inside the Grand Bazaar – surprisingly unhassly
Yum – a glass of freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice (“Nar Suyu”) for 4 lire or about £1.50
On the Galata bridge, where locals have more important things than tourists on their mind
A ride on an Istanbul ferry is a bargain at 3 lire (£1.15)
Busy Erminou is perhaps the most tourist-friendly spot from which to catch a ferry, after you’ve wandered over the Galata Bridge or visited the Topkapi Palace or Hagia Sofia
When I first went to Istanbul in 1989, the Lonely Planet guide advised a certain spot inside Hagia Sofia where you stand and clap and you’d hear the echo all around you – something that I think just isn’t possible in these days of easyJet and Ryanair
You don’t have to go too far from the centre of Istanbul to feel like you’re in a small Turkish town instead
Yum – Turkish pretzels (“simitci”)
Istiklal Street – Istanbul’s main pedestrian thoroughfare, packed with shops and cafes – and people!